Our Young Biologist course for Grade 10s is definitely one of our favourite courses, both because it involves a super fun camp, but also because we really get to know the children that take part. Many of these "YBs" stay and volunteer with the Aquarium and become part of the family. We decided to catch up with some of them to hear what they are up to nowadays, what they remember about their time at the Aquarium and what advice they can give to future, aspirant Young Biologists.

Taahirah Sait (2015 YB)

What are you up to nowadays?

I’m studying Nature Conservation at CPUT and I’m in my second year.

Taahirah removes a whale bone from a carcass while volunteering for SANParks.

Your fondest memory of your time at the Aquarium?

My fondest memory is winning the Young Biologist  PADI Open Water dive course with my best friend, Sophia, which I did at the Aquarium.

Words of wisdom to new wannabes?

My words of wisdom to the new wannabes is to just be enthusiastic, charismatic and hardworking, because volunteering at the Two Oceans Aquarium is a major honour, it’s an opportunity that should be taken with both hands. So many doors will open for you thereafter!

Matthew Orolowitz (2011 YB)

What are you up to nowadays?

I'm doing my Masters in Conservation Biology at UCT.

Matthew back in 2011.

Your fondest memory of your time at the Aquarium?

I have so many, from walking up to Adam Sandler while in a mascot suit, scuba diving in the Predator Exhibit, partaking in the penguin waddle, visitors doing bizarre things and asking weird questions, to sleepovers in the Aquarium, and making lifelong friendships. It's hard to just pick one.

Words of wisdom to new wannabes?

Have a sense of wonder like a worm. Dream big and reach for the sea stars! Don't be shy like a shark. Make friends and no anemones. It's okay to make a clown(fish) of yourself. Don't be unapproachable like an urchin. Be yourself and don't be afraid to swim against the current. In other words, you can learn so much about our oceans from the Aquarium. But more than that, you can learn more about and challenge yourself. The Young Biologist course can change your life. 

Megan-Rose Francis (2011 YB)

What are you up to nowadays?

I am a conservationist (graduated last year December) with a keen interest and love for the marine environment. I am currently an intern for The Beach Co-Op that works to keep South Africa’s shores clean and healthy, by working with single-use plastic at all points of the value chain, working with people and corporates to use less plastic. I also work part-time with ‘I Am Water’ who believe in teaching ocean conservation through transformative ocean experiences.

Credit: International Marine Volunteers

Your fondest memory of your time at the Aquarium?

I absolutely love volunteering and working at the Two Oceans Aquarium, where you have the opportunity to work and become friends with wonderful likeminded individuals. I am always learning new things during every shift. Some of my most treasured Aquarium memories are working in turtle rehabilitation, which was such a demanding but rewarding experience; learning how to tag fish that were being used for research purposes and starting the SEA Team with my good friend and fellow YB Matthew Orolowitz.

Words of wisdom to new wannabes?

I was so privileged to have an amazing science teacher, Mrs Bezuidenhout, who encouraged me to apply for the YB course. I am so grateful for that because the Aquarium has really deepened my love for all things marine and has provided so many opportunities to get further involved. Take every opportunity that you are interested in and that comes your way, work hard and you will eventually reap the rewards.

Credit: Yanga Mbatana

Nikki Cathcart (2010 YB)

What are you up to nowadays?

Nowadays, I'm working at an environmental consultancy called Anchor Environmental Consultants and have been there for a year. I started out picking worms from samples and have moved up to running a sea urchin toxicity experiment and heading off on fieldtrips to the rocky shores (experience as a volunteer definitely proved useful there!). I'm hoping to start my Masters through the company as well as become a qualified commercial diver in the next few years. 

Your fondest memory of your time at the Aquarium?

More than anything my favourite part of volunteering was working with Mammeli in the kitchen and helping out with feeding the animals in the exhibits. It's not glamorous work, but so rewarding and you really become a part of the family and get to know each animal and their little quirks. 

Words of wisdom to new wannabes?

The best advice I'd give to new volunteers is to work hard and never give up. A lot of times your expectations are not met immediately, but with perseverance and passion, everything pays off and you end up closer and closer to your dreams! 

Amy Arendse (2015 YB)

What are you up to nowadays?

Currently I am in my second year of studying a Bachelor of Science in marine biology and oceanography at the University of Cape Town. Between studying, I am a marimba teacher at Wynberg Girls’ and Springfield Convent High school for a company called Marimba Jam. I am currently a part of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation as a candidate fellow, which involves entrepreneurial activities.

Your fondest memory of your time at the Aquarium?

Being a part of the jelly breeding process and looking after the Jelly Gallery when Krish Lewis was away. Felt super cool and important! 

Words of wisdom to new wannabes?

Don’t take the Aquarium for granted. You’re blessed with a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Aquarium family. Make the most of it and experience everything the Aquarium has to offer. It’s a once in a life time opportunity.  

Daanyaal Loofer (2013 YB)

What are you up to nowadays?

At the beginning of the year, I had just completed some invaluable work experience with Project 90x2030, an incredible and passionate NGO that I was involved with back in high school under their youth development programme. I returned to them for a few months in 2018 as an intern in their Policy and Advocacy department and got to participate in workshops and focus groups at the AIDC and WWF where various organizations addressed Energy in contemporary South Africa while mobilising and empowering our residents. I have also been a casual member of the Aquarium’s Visitor Services team since 2017. Interacting with our visitors from all over the world is definitely one of the cool parts of the job. We are constantly learning new foreign greetings and experiencing global cultures right in front of us through our brief encounters with visitors. 

I am also in the final semester of my undergraduate degree at UWC. I'm studying a BA Geography, Environmental Sustainability Studies and Tourism. Next year I'm considering completing my Honours in either City and Regional Planning or Geographical Information Systems.

Your fondest memory of your time at the Aquarium?

My best memory of my time at the Aquarium would be an accumulation of all my experiences learning from the incredible people that devote themselves to these conservation efforts. I have also met some of my closest friends through the Aquarium and through everything I've experienced, I've grown into who I am today largely because of the way you have all guided me. My own philosophy for how I go through and see life has been shaped by my earlier years in these Aquarium education courses and I am so grateful to you all for everything.

Words of wisdom to new wannabes?

My advice to the new 'wannabes' would be to fully engage with the content you are receiving. Although I have a limited baseline to weigh my following statement against, I am certain these are some of the best marine-focused courses available pertaining to South African waters. I know the education team has worked hard developing the YB course over years and your participation in it means they have recognised in you a potential to challenge and respond to the content. This learning environment is really unique and special with the Aquarium really giving you the space and resources to learn anything and everything about our oceans and our responsibility to them. Ask all your questions, bring all your energy and take in this entire experience because it will be one of those memories you'll look back on one day when it's over.

Want to kickstart your career in marine science? Grade 10s are invited to sign up for our completely free Young Biologist course, and learners in other grades should keep an eye on the opportunities on offer in our Marine Science Academy.

Adults - don't worry we haven't forgotten about you: Applications are now open for our volunteer programme, including some incredible on-the-job training and hands-on experience.

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